Tunnels, urban design shape future of Midtown

In a back room of Grand Rounds Brew Pub on Wednesday, a group of citizens and volunteers pored over colorful maps and conceptual designs hung against the walls, exchanging opinions and ideas.

It was the second gathering of Midtown Conversations , a group focused on furthering community-led design of Rochester's midtown neighborhood, covering Second Street Southwest and the Kutzky neighborhood.

Though a major development project in the area recently was withdrawn, neighbors and neighborhood activists are continuing to look for consensus on a few urban-design principles for the area. The group, loosely led by members of Imagine Kutzky , plans to share these ideas with the city's decision makers in the hope they inform development processes.

Among Wednesday's topics were street design, land use, subway connections and setting of broader goals and objectives.



The groups set out three designs for subway connections. The first showed a single tunnel crossing Second Street to Mayo Clinic Hospital Saint Marys Campus. Two additional designs showed expanded connections to the east and west, providing business accesses.

Subway connections were a key issue in the proposed design of a Holiday Inn project in the area and the issue remains divisive among interested residents.

"I'm either hearing 'I want tunnels everywhere,' or 'I don't want tunnels at all,'" said Tim Hawkins, a volunteer leading the subway conversation.

One idea that gained traction was a partial closure of 12th Avenue Southwest at its Second Street intersection. A subway connection could be provided in the middle of the closed avenue, with a pedestrian plaza occupying the rest of the block.

"I really love this idea of this closed, pedestrian promenade on 12th (Avenue Southwest)," said Aaron Leppin, a neighborhood resident.

Land Use

Participants at the first Midtown Conversations event commented frequently that they wanted more retail options and commercial uses in the area, while maintaining a residential characteristic.

"I like … this idea of being able to access a lot of the services just within walking distance and not have to leave the neighborhood for many things, to be able to get your groceries, your dry cleaning or whatever," said neighborhood resident Beth Leppin.


Neighborhood concept

Based on feedback from the first meeting, Midtown Conversations leaders worked to produce a neighborhood design concept; Design Rochester provided a sketch for review on Wednesday. The concept called for wider rights-of-way on Second Street and an increased use of alleyways for municipal services, said Andy Masterpole, an Imagine Kutzky member.

It was important for the group to view all aspects of urban design together, Masterpole said, in order to provide comments to city decision makers that would "pull together" the city's plans for the area.

Though Wednesday's turnout was somewhat smaller than the first Midtown Conversations event, Masterpole said he was eager to continue the process.

"The numbers weren't as much but the people were really engaged," he said. "We really got a lot of good feedback about these ideas and that's what we wanted."

More information on the group and a report from the first meeting can be found online at .

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